The summer is almost here! In our previous blog posts, we gave you some tips as to how to help your students practise their grammar, vocabulary and reading over the summer. However, it is impossible for them to work on their speaking and writing without the help of a teacher. Or is it?
It may be that the best way for your students to improve is to have the guidance and feedback of a teacher, but there are actually quite a few ways for them to continue the work when you are not around. There are also great ways to simply incorporate ways of expressing themselves in English into their everyday lives. Let’s have a look at some of them!
One aspect of speaking that students can practise at home during the summer is pronunciation. They might think that this is something that they can only work on during the lessons, but I suggest you show them the BBC Learning English site to prove them wrong. 🙂 In Tim’s Pronunciation Workshop, you will find lots of videos and activities focusing on specific sounds and other features of pronunciations (e.g. weak forms, assimilation, etc). These videos are great for self-study and also quite fun!
The question arises, though: What if you don’t want your students to focus on pronunciation, but your aim is rather to promote fluency practice during the summer by getting them to speak as much English as possible? Where can students find people to talk to?
One great way to find like-minded learners is to search for conversation groups on Meetup.com. Almost every city and town has an English-speaking conversation group. Many of them have moved online due to the pandemic, so even if your students live in remote places, with an internet connection they can easily join a group. Another website for speaking clubs is Vennmón, which operates in numerous languages, too. This is where I practise my Spanish every week. Vennmón sessions are basically Zoom meetings with lovely atmosphere, a diverse group of people and topics, which don’t feel like a lesson at all!
If your students prefer chatting instead of video calls or meeting up, they can also find a language tandem partner on HelloTalk or the Tandem Language App.
Research shows that writing in English (even without the guidance of a teacher) can greatly enhance students’ vocabulary, grammar and creative thinking, all of which are crucial for mastering a language. Even if we are not there to give them feedback, it’s important to remember that the sole action of students writing in English will help them develop their language skills.
But what should our students be writing? Some students are into fiction, some prefer to write about their own lives, things that happen to them. The tricky thing for us teachers is to strike the balance between providing students with enough scaffolding to write but not limiting them too much, so that they can be creative.
Compare the following writing tasks – which one do you like the most? Which one would you be happy to write about if you were a student?
- Write a fictional story about dragons and fairies
- Write a fictional story starting with the title: It was a sunny day in Fairyland. Sam, the fairy boy, was taking his dragon for a walk when he saw something surprising.
- Write a fictional story starting with this sentence: It was a very strange Monday morning….
Make sure you include at least of the things you can see here:
I’m sure you would agree that the second and third options are much better than the first one. There is still a lot of room for creativity, but a bit of structure and some prompts will really help your students come up with stories.
The pictures in the second task come from the Story Dice website which is the online version of the popular storytelling game.
If you or your students run out of ideas for fictional stories, check out this website: https://writingexercises.co.uk/index.php
You will find a random plot generator, random first line prompts and even a town name generator, among other things.
How about students who would prefer to write about their own lives? My favourite summer task for them is a Gratitude Journal. Listen to Oprah Winfrey talking about hers:
We know for a fact now that gratitude makes you happier and it makes you focus on the good things in life. It’s just the cherry on the top that if you do it in a foreign language, it makes you better at the language, too! You can challenge your students to write a gratitude journal (5 good things that happened to you each day) during the summer and even use it as a great back-to-school activity in the autumn. Students can tell each other about things they were grateful for and practise speaking, too.
For students who prefer handwriting, the gratitude journal can be a simple notebook. For students who are more interested in apps and technology, I recommend using the Day One app.
I hope these ideas will give you and your students inspiration and that your students will find that practising their English during the summer holiday does not necessarily have to be a burden, it can actually be quite enjoyable!